United States Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), along with eight co-sponsors, has introduced legislation — House Bill 6335 , the Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act — which seeks to amend the federal Controlled Substances Act so as to “exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical-marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.” Representative Lee’s bill, the first of its kind ever introduced in Congress, is a direct response to Justice Department’s increased and arbitrary use of the civil asset forfeiture statute to sanction property owners whose tenants are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. Since October, US Attorneys in California alone have sent more than 300 threatening letters to landlords across the state, resulting in the closure of more than 400 dispensaries, according to tabulations compiled by the group Americans for Safe Access. Speaking in support of the proposal, Rep. Lee explained, “As a long-time supporter of the rights of patients to have safe and legal access to medicine that has been recommended to them by their doctors, this bill will provide clarification to California businesses and security for California patients. The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana and, as a result, thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs, and paying their taxes. We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need. ” The Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act has been assigned before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. You can contact your member of Congress is support of the Act via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here . Several other marijuana law reform bills also remain pending before Congress, including: * HR 2306 , the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act , which prohibits the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess marijuana by removing the plant and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The measure presently has 20 co-sponsors. You can contact your member of Congress in support of this Act here . * HR 1983 , the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act , which ensures that medical cannabis patients in states that have approved its use will no longer have to fear arrest or prosecution from federal law enforcement agencies. The measure presently has 22 co-sponsors. Support this measure by clicking here . * HR 1831 , the Industrial Hemp Farming Act , excludes low potency varieties of marijuana from federal prohibition. The measure presently has 33 co-sponsors. Its just introduced Senate companion bill, S 3501 , has three co-sponsors. Contact your member of the House and Senate in support of this Act here . * HR 6134 , The Truth in Trials Act , provides an affirmative defense in federal court for defendants whose actions were in compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their state. The measure presently has 22 co-sponsors. You can support this measure here .
Feds Target Harborside Health Center — California’s Largest, Most Prominent Medical Cannabis Dispensary
Many of California’s most prominent and well-respected medical cannabis dispensaries and related facilities — including Oaksterdam University, Berkeley Patients Group, and Harborside Health Center (HHC) — flourished under the George W. Bush administration. But they’ll be lucky to survive President Barack Obama’s first term. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors targeted Harborside Health Center in Oakland, as well as its sister facility in San Jose, for closure and civil asset forfeiture. In court papers filed by the US Attorney for the northern district of California, Melinda Haag, the federal government alleges that Harborside is “operating in violation of federal law” by providing cannabis to state-qualified patients. The actions taken by the US Department of Justice stand in sharp contrast statements made by President Obama prior to his election, when he pledged to no longer use federal “Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws” regulating the physician authorized use and distribution of medical cannabis — a promise this administration has repeatedly broken . The actions also contradict more recent statements made by US Attorney Eric Holder to Congress in June when he asserted that Justice officials are solely targeting individuals who are “taking advantage of those state laws and going beyond what those states have authorized.” Yet despite Eric Holder and the President’s claims to the contrary, the DOJ’s actions against Harborside are consistent with a growing trend by the Obama administration to target and close many of the state’s most prominent, longstanding, and well-respected medical cannabis operations — including the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (1996-2011), Berkeley Patients Group (2000-2012), and El Camino Wellness (2008-2012). In April, approximately 100 federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, a brick-and-mortar cannabis trade school in downtown Oakland, and several other properties rented by the facility’s founder Richard Lee . (To date, no criminal charges have been filed against Lee and O.U. has since re-opened .) Internal e-mails from the Oakland Police Department, made public earlier this week, reveal that local law enforcement officials had virtually no advance notice of the federal government’s actions against Oaksterdam, which they criticized as “resource-draining; … [it] exposed our staff to more conflict (harm) as well as complaints than necessary.” Commenting on this week’s action, US Attorney Melinda Haag pronounced : “This office has used its limited resources to address those marijuana dispensaries that operate close to schools, parks and playgrounds. As I have said in the past, this is a non-exclusive list of factors relevant to whether we should commence civil forfeiture actions against marijuana properties, and circumstances may require us to address other situations. I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need. The filing of the civil forfeiture complaints against the two Harborside properties is part of our measured effort to address the proliferation of illegal marijuana businesses in the Northern District of California.” Speaking at a press conference today — Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director of Harborside Health Center — rebuffed Haag’s claims, stating that HHC is neither close to a school, nor out of compliance with state law. “Harborside has nothing to hide or be ashamed of,” DeAngelo said in a prepared statement . “ We will contest the DOJ action openly and in public, and through all legal means at our disposal. We look forward to our day in court, and are confident that justice is on our side.” Harborside Health Center is licensed by the city of Oakland. It employs over 100 people and is Oakland’s second largest retail tax payer. Last year, HHC paid combined taxes in excess of $3 million, over a million dollars of which went directly to the City of Oakland. According to a post on the facility’s website, Harborside Health Center intends to remain open despite federal threats. It states: “ Harborside is not in imminent danger of closing. We intend to keep the commitment we made six years ago to provide our patients with safe access to the medicine their doctors have recommended, for as long as we possibly can.” The US Attorney’s actions come the same week that former US House Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi called on Congress to reform federal marijuana laws to acknowledge the plant’s therapeutic utility. Representative Pelosi had previously criticized the Obama administration’s actions this past May, stating , “ I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California , and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.” Harborside Health Center estimates that it serves over 100,000 members. The facility had previously been engaged in litigation with the Internal Revenue Service, which determined that the dispensary could not deduct standard business expenses such as payroll and rent, because it is involved in what the agency terms “the trafficking of controlled substances.”
The editors at US News & World Report are asking the question , ‘Is it time to scale back the war on drugs?’ They’ve assembled a round-table of participants to respond. Arguing in favor politics as usual are Kevin Sabet, former Senior Policy Adviser to President Obama’s Drug Czar and David Evans, Special Adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation. Predictably, neither author’s platitudes are resonating with US News readers. (Both Evans and Sabet have only 15 ‘up’ votes combined , versus some 650 ‘down’ votes.) Myself, Aaron Houston (Executive Director: Students for Sensible Drug Policy ), and Neill Franklin (Executive Director: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition ) take the opposite approach — and are much better received. You can read an excerpt from my commentary below: “It’s time for politicians to call for a truce in the so-called war on drugs. According to a 2010 investigation by the Associated Press, lawmakers have spent over $1 trillion dollars enforcing the drug war. Their actions have resulted in a quadrupling of the U.S. prison population since 1980, but little else. In fact, according to America’s present drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, “in the grand scheme, [the drug war] has not been successful.” Least successful among the government’s drug war policies is its long-standing criminalization of marijuana. Since 1970, over 21 million U.S. citizens have been cited or arrested for violating marijuana laws. Yet despite this vigorous criminal enforcement, over 100 million Americans—including the president—acknowledge having consumed cannabis, and 1 in 10 admits using it regularly. Marijuana prohibition hasn’t dissuaded the general public from consuming cannabis or reduced its availability, especially among young people. But it has damaged the lives and careers of millions of people who were arrested and sanctioned for choosing to ingest a substance that is safer than alcohol or tobacco. … Despite more than 70 years of federal prohibition, marijuana is here to stay. Let’s acknowledge this reality, cease ceding control of the marijuana market to untaxed criminal enterprises, and put it in the hands of licensed businesses.” Click here to read all of the round-table submissions and to cast your vote.
A representative from the Secretary of State’s Office in Massachusetts has confirmed that an initiative seeking to allow for medicinal cannabis use by qualified patients has been approved for November’s ballot in the Bay State. The ballot language reads: “A yes vote would enact the proposed law eliminating state criminal and civil penalties related to the medical use of marijuana by patients meeting certain conditions” and that patients will be to procure cannabis “produced and distributed by new state-regulated centers or, in specific hardship cases, to grow marijuana for their own use.” Full text of the initiative can be read here . Data from a March 2011 survey of likely Massachusetts voters by Public Policy Polling had support for medical marijuana at 53% and opposition at 35%. Massachusetts now joins Colorado , Washington , and Montana on the growing list of states voting on marijuana law reform measures this November. Supporters have also turned in signatures for a legalization initiative in Oregon and a medical marijuana initiative in Arkansas , but neither has yet heard back about their qualification status. Get registered to vote and learn all the important information on the initiatives and candidates for the 2012 election by clicking below and visiting NORML’s Voter Resource Guide. Let’s SMOKE THE VOTE in 2012: .
On Tuesday, separate legislative committees in the Rhode Island House and Senate approved measures to significantly reduce the state’s criminal marijuana possession penalties. House Bill 7092 and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 2253 , amend state law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by an individual 18 or older is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a non-arrestable civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. You can read NORML’s testimony in favor of the measures here . According to a recent statewide poll , commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project, 65 percent of Rhode Island’s residents are in favor of decriminalization. In recent years, neighboring Connecticut (in 2011) and Massachusetts (in 2009, via a voter-approved initiative) have enacted similar decriminalization laws. Rhode Island lawmakers have a long history of supporting medical marijuana law reform legislation. However, yesterday’s vote marks one of the first times in recent memory that lawmakers have taken action to amend the state’s marijuana penalties for non-patients. The decriminalization measures now await floor votes in their respective chambers. These votes could come as early as this week. Therefore, if you reside in the Ocean State, it is vital that your elected officials hear from you. You can contact your state elected officials directly via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here . Similar decriminalization legislation is also pending in New Jersey, where the full Assembly is expected to vote on the measure imminently. Further information on this effort is available here . Presently, in eight states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Oregon — the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by an adult is defined under the law as a civil, non-criminal offense. Five additional states — Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio — treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska law imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults. In all other states, marijuana possession for personal use remains a criminal offense — punishable by an arrest, potential incarceration, and a criminal record.
The Tennessean reported last night that popular musician Wiz Khalifa and a friend were busted in Nashville after police received complaints of the strong odor of cannabis apparently emanating from Wiz’s hotel room (I’m shocked !). After unsuccessfully trying to ditch a blunt out a window upon police entry, the pair were busted. Every 38 seconds in America, another cannabis consumer is busted on ganja charges ( 850,000 per year ), and with a pro-cannabis profile as high as Wiz’s (heck, hours before he was busted he posted a photo to Instagram depicting his branded rolling papers next to what looks like some excellent cannabis!) whether it was his super stinky stash or Wiz’s number as a cannabis consumer simply came up to become yet another tragic statistic in the 74-year old failed Cannabis Prohibition. If Wiz needs legal help in Nashville or wants to perform a benefit concert for Tennessee NORML when he has to soon return to deal with their criminal justice system…NORML is here!
A new poll, published today by Angus Reid Public Opinion , looks at the changing attitudes towards marijuana possession penalties in the UK, Canada, and the United States. The poll surveyed 1,011 Americans, 2,015 Britons, and 1,005 Canadians during March of this year. The results show that an overwhelming majority of citizens in these countries no longer believe marijuana possession should result in jail time. From Angus Reid : Majorities of respondents in the three countries (Britain 56%, Canada 68%, United States 74%) welcome the concept of using alternative penalties—such as fines, probation or community service—rather than prison for non-violent offenders. At least seven-in-ten Britons (70%), Americans (74%) and Canadians (78%) believe personal marijuana use should be dealt with through alternative penalties. Support for similar guidelines for credit card fraud, drunk driving and arson is decidedly lower. View the full report here .
Dear NORML Supporters from far and wide, [ Update: Today's media coverage of '4/20' is both wide and extensive: The otherwise staid and anti-cannabis Washington Post has 4/20 entertainment recommendations for the DC area; the Wall Street Journal , the newspaper of record for business and finance, has a well written piece on the growing cultural and commercial acceptance of 4/20; Politico gives a nod to 4/20 by citing examples of what pols say about pot; the University of Colorado is trying to stop a traditional 4/20 'smoke out' by wasting funding on fencing, fish fertilizer strewn across the campus and an alternative concert featuring Wyclef Jean (who has been told by university officials that he can't mention 'marijuana' or '4/20') and the city of Austin is honoring America's most beloved cannabis consumer and advocate Willie Nelson @ 4:20 today by unveiling a new 'Willie Nelson' statue in the downtown area. Lastly, the Huffington Post informs readers today about 4/20 and their #1 suggestion on how to change America's cannabis laws: "Stand with NORML!" ] Despite nearly three quarters of a century of government-imposed Cannabis Prohibition, it is, again, that oh so magical day that cannabis consumers celebrate … and prohibitionists loathe: April 20 A day (and a time of day) that signifies the ever increasing cultural and commercial acceptance in America (and internationally) of millions of consumers’ and medical patients’ want and need for Cannabis Prohibition to end. As in the previous twenty years, there is a fast growing acknowledgement that on April 20 … all things in America are cannabis-related in that major newspapers like the New York Times , Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times now provide major coverage to this day’s significance; radio networks like National Public Radio deign to point their mics toward the issue of Cannabis Prohibition; and even major TV networks such as G4 , SpikeTV , Comedy Central and Showtime will all devote blocks of time to ’4/20? programming with the rebroadcast of ‘stoner movies’, comedy specials and documentaries. Can you just imagine what the good folk at the DEA and the Drug Czar’s office think of this clear cultural defeat annually? One can almost be sympathetic on this day to them for their championing such a lost cause. Well, maybe for a nanosecond. This year, NORML is focusing on four 4/20 related projects for cannabis consumers and patients: NORML 4/20 Fundraiser Join and support NORML during this 4/20 weekend for these special prices and donor premiums: $4.20 (receive two NORML stickers) $42 (receive the new DVD ‘It’s a NORML Life’ autographed by NORML founder Keith Stroup) $420 (receive an odorless backpack from Stealth Products, which will have included inside both a NORML nug jar and NORML emblazed crystal glass astray) Donate Now Listen to NORML’s Daily Podcast Live on 4/20 from San Antonio’s ‘Fweedom’ Fest 4/20 from San Antonio’s Fweedom Fest , beginning at 4pm Eastern and running all night long. We’re celebrating 4/20 at 4:20 in every American Time Zone with correspondents in New York, Atlanta, San Antonio, Des Moines, Denver, Boise, Portland, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. Fweedom Fest coverage includes performances by Chief Greenbud and “Radical” Russ. Listen Here 420day.org Project Filmmaker E.J Vaughn and writer Steve Wishnia contacted NORML asking for help soliciting videos from cannabis consumers and patients about why they use cannabis and why they want the laws reformed as soon as possible. They will use some of these user-generated videos in their upcoming documentary production. While there is much to celebrate about regarding cannabis (as well as to lament about the failed prohibition) on April 20 at 4:20, this project is forward-looking regarding the further normalization of responsible cannabis use by adults. Submit Video CafePress 4/20 Clothing Special NORML’s longtime online apparel partner CafePress has a ’4/20? special running this weekend for some newly designed products that let the world know what your three favorite numbers are. Use the promo code: 20OFF420 to receive 20% off shirts and gear from the NORML Store on CafePress. Some restrictions apply. Buy Gear I have to admit that I’m already getting excited at the prospects for next year’s 4/20 celebrations, that, for the first time in years, will be occurring on a Saturday! From everyone at NORML, please have a safe and very hempy 4/20! Cannabem liberemus , Allen St. Pierre Executive Director email@example.com
At 8am on the morning of September 29, 2011, the Butte Interagency Narcotic Task Force (BINTF) forced entry into the home of Daisy Bram and her husband Jayme Walsh. Law enforcement officers arrested the couple and working jointly with Child Protective Services, seized their children — including their 3-week-old suckling newborn, Zeus, who was violently ripped from his mother’s arms. He and his 15-month-old brother, Thor, were snatched and placed in a stranger’s home. Neither of these nursing babies had ever been away from their parents. Click here to view the embedded video. Three weeks prior, on September 7, 2011, after a summer of watching sheriff’s helicopters fly over the area, two Butte County Sheriff’s deputies trespassed onto a clearly marked private road, maneuvered around a locked/gated driveway, and onto the property of Daisy and Jayme’s remote home on a mountain in Concow, California. They were there for a “compliance check”. [A “compliance check” is a convenient excuse created by local county law enforcement used solely for the purpose of unlawfully obtaining access to private homes to investigate legal medicinal cannabis gardens for potential arrest and prosecution.] During this “compliance check” police assured Daisy’s husband that “…everything looks okay… good luck with the baby.” The necessary and appropriate valid medical paperwork was and is in order. The couple has since been charged with eight class A felonies, six relating to cannabis and two charges of child abuse). After a preliminary hearing, at which Jayme Walsh represented himself and Bram, they had the good fortune of retaining attorneys Michael Levinsohn and Jen Reeder. The child related charges, and one cannabis related charge were dismissed, leaving five remaining criminal cannabis charges. One of the most disturbing factors in this nightmare is that there has never been any attempt by prosecutors to verify the validity of their status as qualified patients in the state of California. Both Walsh and Bram have legal state-recognized recommendations for medical marijuana. UPDATE [3/13/12] – Butte County Assistant District Attorney, Jeff Greeson, re-filed felony child abuse and misdemeanor child endangerment charges, against Daisy Bram ( www.freemybabies.org ). Daisy and her husband Jayme Walsh are medical cannabis patients in Butte County. Their 3 week old and 15 month-old children were taken and held by Butte County CPS for more than four months, following the parents arrest for cannabis. Tamara Lujan, NORML Women’s Alliance Community Leader for Butte County issued the following statement: “Considering the felony and misdemeanor charges were dropped, and are now being re-filed after public outcry and the filing for a Grand Jury Investigation, we can come to no other conclusion except this is a retaliatory measure, from the Butte County DA’s office.” The outrage over this incident has driven several local residents to come forward with similar complaints regarding the misconduct of the BINTF and Child Services Division of Butte County (which leads all of California’s large counties in the percentage rate of permanent removal of children from parents). As a result, the NORML Women’s Alliance has filed an official request for an investigation by the Grand Jury in Butte County (including a financial audit). On Friday March 9th, the NWA, along with Butte County residents, put forward a complaint to the Grand Jury of Butte requesting an investigation into the County Children Services Division for the agency’s perceived and widespread misconduct. The findings in the people’s request include numerous testimonials from directly affected persons, submitted herein via the GRAND JURY COMPLAINT FORMS, which specify various and detailed claims of CSD misdeeds. To see the full press click here . “We thank the Grand Jury for its time, consideration and diligence in pursing our request. Only when government agencies have proper oversight can we as a community rest assured that corruption, abuse and other misdeeds are kept in check and deterred. Together We the People of Butte County and the Grand Jury can make these necessary strides of investigation and oversight to ensure all Butte families are truly served well, and are safe and secure at home.” – Tamara Lujan (NWA Butte County Community Leader) — Follow the NORML Women’s Alliance on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/normlwomen and Twitter at twitter.com/normlwomen
NORML SHOW LIVE streams every weekday at 4pm Pacific / 7pm Eastern on The NORML Network, where it’s 4:20 / 24 / 7 / 365 If you’re not able to attend this weekend’s HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup in Los Angeles , here at The NORML Network we’ve got the next best thing. Tune in Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 7pm Pacific Time at http://live.norml.org for all the panels, presentations, interviews, and floor tours from LA Center Studios. We’ll also be presenting our “It’s 4:20 Somewhere” raffles